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Barbara Rowe

Barbara Rowe

(b. 1952)
American
Born: Buffalo, NY, United States

Barbara Rowe is an artist and educator born and based in Buffalo, NY who works primarily in printmaking. She and husband Peter Sowiski are the owners of the printmaking shop Abaca Press on Niagara St. Graduating with a Master of Fine Arts Degree from University of Massachusetts Amherst, Rowe’s practice has developed to span across traditional and digital processes, including woodcut, intaglio and screen-printing processes in order to produce her popular multimedia works.[1] [2] Rowe’s work has been well-received for decades, with many museums and galleries boasting her works. Her artwork is in the collections of the Castellani Art Museum at Niagara University, the Albright-Knox Art Gallery, the Art Institute of Chicago, the Frans Masreel Center in Belgium, as well as many private collections. [3]

Throughout the 1990s, Rowe garnered recognition throughout the region for her contribution to several exhibitions on pressing social issues. Her tenacity toward speaking out on these issues is exemplified by her involvement in a 1992 national traveling exhibition titled “The Abortion Project”. Beginning in New York City and concluding in San Francisco, this exhibition was hosted in Buffalo at Hallwalls and was a passionate response to the federal gag rule on women’s healthcare providers to discuss abortion as a viable option for pregnant women during this time. [4] [5]

Rowe also credits social issues as inspiration when creating a piece of artwork. In a 2015 interview with Forever Young she explains, “The imagery comes mostly from things near and dear to me, like my concern for social issues, travel, and my gardens.” [6]

Rowe’s more recent work clearly highlights some of her other named influences. Her 2009 collection titled “Buddha” features the astute juxtaposition of two popular periods of time in the history of Asia as a whole, printed on handmade paper. As Rowe writes, she “based [the works] on travels to Asia, and [is] reacting to [the] contrast of pop imagery with ancient ancestry.” [7] This collection captures both the playfulness of modern animated characters and the solemnity of ancient patterned artworks which speak to the continent’s longstanding traditions and emphasis on ancestry.

Using these screen-printing processes, along with gouache, inkjet and graphite, Rowe created her most recent series, titled “Bus Stop” in 2019, depicting individuals waiting at the NFTA bus stop in Buffalo’s University District.8 She credits the commercial techniques that she uses for her screen-printing business as valuable tools to advance her personal artwork. [9]

Rowe has also been praised for her outstanding efforts to transform her community. On Niagara Street, Rowe and Sowiski’s shop sits adjacent to a neighborhood described as “an unpolished gem” on Buffalo’s West Side. Since opening the shop in 1995, the couple have made enormous efforts to reorganize the neighborhood and make it more inviting to residents. Rowe shares the history of their vision for the area:

"Through the business, we became familiar with this gritty industrial neighborhood, which is on the edge of a residential area. After we purchased this building and moved here in 2006, we became more interested in the character of the neighborhood; its problems and opportunities.

It’s right next to the canal and the river—it’s elevated and you could see the water, which you’d never know because we’re cut off and cars constantly speed down Niagara St. It’s got a historical background. There are also a lot of vacancies. I started getting people together to talk about it. We founded Vision Niagara and have already received a Better Buffalo Main Street grant." [10]

Rowe retired from NCCC as a professor of Fine Arts in 2019, and currently sits as President of Vision Niagara, whose mission “strives to create a thriving community that capitalizes on its waterfront location, international significance, rich heritage, and historic architecture… [by] working together to encourage and implement revitalization of the Niagara Street Corridor into a desirable and progressive place to live, work, and play.” [11]

To learn more about Barbara Rowe’s artwork, Abaca printmaking shop, and Vision Niagara, refer to the links below:

Barbara Rowe’s website: https://www.barbararowe.com/ Abaca Prinkmaking Shop: https://www.abaca-press.com/about Vision Niagara: https://visionniagara.org/ 

 

[1] Barbara Rowe, “Peter Sowiski and Barbara Rowe: Inspired and Inspiring”, Forever Young, November 2015. http://www.foreveryoungwny.com/Forever-Young/November-2015/Peter-Sowiski-and-Barbara-Rowe/ (Accessed: 8/3/2020).
[2] “Brunch with Barb & Peter”, Hallwalls Art Gallery website, November 2015, https://www.hallwalls.org/special/5680.html (Accessed: 8/1/2020). 
[3]  Kelly Atkinson, “Barbara Rowe//Virtual”, Creative Mornings, July 2020, https://creativemornings.com/talks/barbara-rowe (Accessed: 8/2/2020). 
[4]   “The Abortion Project”, Hallwalls, March-April 1992, https://www.hallwalls.org/visual/2308.html (Accessed: 8/1/2020). 
[5] Pat Swift, “Artists to Speak Out on Abortion”, The Buffalo News, February 1992. https://buffalonews.com/news/artists-to-speak-out-on-abortion/article_a2b5843f-4eea-5d7e-9ac1-e49b3d5875ab.html  (Accessed: 8/3/2020). 
[6] Barbara Rowe, “Peter Sowiski and Barbara Rowe: Inspired and Inspiring”, Forever Young. 
[7] Prints and Drawings, Barbara Rowe’s Website, https://www.barbararowe.com/prints-and-drawings/bus-stop-2015-2018 (Accessed: 8/3/2020).
[8] Prints and Drawings, Barbara Rowe’s Website. 
[9] Barbara Rowe, “Peter Sowiski and Barbara Rowe: Inspired and Inspiring”, Forever Young. 
[1]0 Barbara Rowe, “Peter Sowiski and Barbara Rowe: Inspired and Inspiring”, Forever Young. 11 Vision Niagara website. https://visionniagara.org/ (Accessed: 8/6/2020).